In today’s Montreal Canadiens News and Rumors rundown, there’s news on play-ins predictions. There are some rumors on Dale Weise’s future contract situation – will he remain with Montreal or even in the NHL? Alexander Romanov is in the bubble for Phase 4. Otto Leskinen is loaned to a Finnish Liiga team, and will there be significant movement this summer by general manager Marc Bergevin to acquire any size and speed?
Play-in Series Predictions
Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette broke down the Canadiens vs Pittsburgh Penguins series before it began and gave the edge to the Penguins in every category (offence, defence, special teams, goaltending) except for the intangibles.
“The Canadiens have a knack for raising their level of play against the NHL’s better teams and they emerged victorious in their only two previous playoff matchups against the Penguins in 1998 and 2010.”from ‘Canadiens are simply outmatched by Penguins in postseason series,’ Montreal Gazette, 01 Aug 2020
Like most pundits (including myself), Hickey gives the Penguins the series in four games. With the Canadiens’ overtime win in Game 1, not many are changing their positions, but the Canadiens fan base is definitely energized.
Dale Weise’s NHL Days are Numbered?
Are Weise’s days with the NHL numbered? There is a nagging rumor that the veteran of 513 NHL games has a deal in place to play in Lausanne, Switzerland after these play-ins are completed. Guillaume Lefrancois of La Presse in Montreal has asked Weise about this directly. Weise stated:
“There is no deal. I’m here focused on the series. I’m aiming 100% for a return to the NHL next year. I want to be in the playoffs and I want to sign a new deal with the Canadiens.”Dale Weise
It’s no surprise that Weise’s agent would be keeping options open for his client in Europe. Weise had cleared waivers several times in recent seasons due to his $2.25 million contract that expires at the end of the 2019-20 season. It’s also clear that he has been shifting down on the Canadiens’ depth chart. The fourth-line winger may end up having some interest with NHL clubs, but if he is unwilling to spend time in the AHL again, perhaps a European deal is his best financial option.
Alexander Romanov in the Bubble
Romanov is not eligible to play in these play-ins or playoffs. This decision burns a year off of his entry-level contract (ELC), but it does give the Canadiens control on where he plays this coming season. After some serious confusion in regards to where Romanov would complete his self-isolation upon entry to Canada – he bounced between Toronto and Montreal – he was able to complete it in Toronto in time to join the Canadiens on the ice for practice once Phase 4 began.
“Romanov will spend at least the next week getting to know his new teammates and acquiring a feel for the smaller North American ice surface in practices. When the Canadiens are eliminated, he will go back home to Russia to rest before the Canadiens open their 2020-21 training camp in November.”From ‘Alexander Romanov skates with Canadiens for the first time,’ Montreal Gazette, 01 Aug 2020
Canadiens fans are excited for what the 20-year-old, Russian defenceman could bring to the Habs’ blue line next season. While they wait, fans will need to focus on how well he seems to be fitting in with his teammates during practice.
Otto Leskinen Returns to Finland
Otto Leskinen, who has one year remaining in his two-year ELC, has been loaned to KalPa Kuopio in the Finnish Liiga for the start of the 2020-21 season. The Canadiens announced that Leskinen is also expected to report to the 2020-21 Canadiens and Laval Rocket training camps, set to begin in December.
This decision by Bergevin allows the young left-handed defender, who played five games this season with the Canadiens, to get meaningful ice time in preparation for next season. While it is not expected he makes the team out of camp, it is clear he is still in management’s plan even if it is simply to be used as NHL depth or to help Laval in a playoff bid.
Is Jake Virtanen On the Block?
Vancouver Canucks 2014 first-round pick Jake Virtanen has been benched in the first game of the NHL play-ins and it appears he has fallen out of head coach Travis Green’s favour.
Virtanen is an inconsistent power forward with speed and a skill set that is needed in Montreal. Bergevin does like to take chances on players like this, such as his trade for Zach Kassian from the Canucks. Perhaps history repeats itself and fans will see some trade movement after these playoffs are over.
Related: Do You Know Your Canadiens’ Trivia?
As teams around the league, including the Canadiens, continue the play-in series, stick to The Hockey Writers for all of the latest hockey news and rumors.